By Matty Neufeld
I truly had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed The Planet Summit in Milan, Italy. At the conference on sustainable agriculture, I had the privilege to be one among 2,500 people from 120 different countries at this global event. The greatest joy, however, came from meeting the 16 delegates from across Canada to learn about what they do to help our country’s food system.
The three-day event included meetings with topics spanning all different aspects of global food systems. From food waste, to economical profits for farmers, to seed collection, to animal breeders and ocean protection, the discussions were diverse. Whatever the personal delegates’ interests, they had a chance to attend the right conference for them. A few key speakers during this event were, of course, Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement; Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. and promoter of edible education throughout the U.S.; and Raj Patel, a brilliant author who holds seminars on the what we can do as a network to effect change for the good.
Although each conference was unique in its own way, I believe the best part was striking up a conversation with fellow attendees simply by asking, “what’s your name?“, “where are you from?” and “what do you do?”. Since the common interest of food was in the air, it was easy to get lost in conversation for hours. I met people from Mali, Indonesia, Australia, Mexico, Estonia, Brazil — the list goes on. But as I previously mentioned, meeting with the Canadians was the personal highlight for me. Since Canada is such a huge, widespread country, it’s normally difficult for all of us to come together and talk about the specific issues that we as Canadians face.
We had one of the biggest delegations and quite a diverse group as well. Farmers, breeders, a cheese maker, a fourth generation oyster farmer, a student of traditional edible forage, a chef, a rancher and a fisheries coordinator from the Okanogan Valley were just a few of the people in attendance. They all got along like they’d known each other for years and had so much information to bring to the “table.” These people are the real ones feeding Canada.
We held a few meetings to take a look at the difficulties certain individuals were facing regarding food/agriculture and to see what kind of support we could give each other. We were loud and proud throughout the entire event, and although we may have received the label of “party delegation,” I feel it created a strong bond between us and fostered friendships for the future. Above all, I am excited for my return to Canada at the beginning of the new year. I plan to use the energy I gained from this event to follow up on the many projects we have planned and to continue down this good, clean, fair food path for many years to come.